Wednesday, December 18, 2013
'Silly Nomads' is success story for UHS co-authors
As a young boy growing up in Jamaica, Marcus Mohalland
had lots of dreams. One of his most fervent - to move to America with
his family - was realized when he was just 15. Another, to become an
author, became a reality this year.
Early in 2013 Marcus, unit
assistant, ED, UHS Wilson, and colleague Jan Lewis Zelesnikar, RN, BSN,
health information nurse specialist, Stay Healthy, co-authored and
published their first children’s book, "Silly Nomads From Palmerston
"Silly Nomads" is the story of two young brothers
living in Jamaica who have fertile imaginations and a healthy dose of
mischievousness. In the story, planned as the first in a series,
10-year-old Suhcrom and 8-year-old Naddih decide to become nomads after
seeing a documentary on television. What ensues is a funny tale geared
toward children but a delight for readers of any age.
authors met in 2005 when they served together on the Tobacco Free Broome
Coalition. Jan already worked for UHS at the time, while Marcus was a
youth empowerment coordinator for the Broome County Youth Bureau. The
two became friends.
“One of the first things Marcus told me was that he wanted to write a book,” Jan recalls.
think I was 15 years old when I decided I wanted to write a children’s
book about my experiences growing up in Jamaica,” Marcus adds, “I wanted
to tell my story.”
A few people were interested in
collaborating with Marcus in the past, but he never felt those pairings
were right until he began working with Jan. “She is more detail-oriented
than I am,” he says.
“The technical part of writing is one
of my strengths,” Jan admits. “I like to write, and I’m very detailed,
sometimes annoyingly so,” she laughs.
“When I’m telling her a
story she asks me questions like what did I feel, what did I smell,
what was I wearing, what did I see,” Marcus notes. “Once she asked me
what the dirt in Jamaica feels like!”
“I fold those details into the story,” says Jan.
“And it really adds to it,” Marcus comments. “Our differences help our collaboration.”
“It is a really good balance because we each have different strengths that play on each other,” Jan adds.
of the most pleasurable parts of the writing process is reading the
book out loud,” notes Marcus. “There’s so much humor in the stories - we
just crack up.”
It took Marcus and Jan about two months to
write the first draft of what would become "Silly Nomads From Palmerston
Close." Once finished, however, they decided to add two more volumes of
stories, which took five more months.
“We just wrote and wrote and wrote, whenever we could,” notes Jan. “It was crazy.”
they shared their manuscript with a few close friends and advisors, who
provided valuable feedback. They also asked several children to
test-read the book and complete a questionnaire. This provided them with
good input, some of which they incorporated into their final
Originally, Marcus and Jan intended to take the
traditional route of finding a literary agent and having their book
published by an established publishing house. When that didn’t work out
for several reasons, the authors decided to start their own company and
self-publish. Thus, Mohalland Lewis LLC was formed in March 2013 and
"Silly Nomads," the company’s first book, was released in September.
was a little scared at first and wondered if we had the time to start a
company and publish our own book,” says Jan, “but it turned out to be a
fun and very satisfying experience to do this ourselves.”
then, the response has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Marcus reports.
Reader reviews posted on Amazon.com, one of the outlets at which "Silly
Nomads" is available, have been encouraging. They have even had several
book-signings: one in Vestal, one in Amityville, Long Island, N.Y.,
one at the RiverRead bookstore in downtown Binghamton and another at the
Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pa., just in time for Christmas.
At the Bethlehem signing, they were joined by their illustrator, Kate Santee.
Nomads From Palmerston Close" is available in Kindle and paperback
formats from Amazon.com. Paperback copies are also available locally in
the gift shops at UHS Wilson, UHS Binghamton General, Lourdes Hospital
and RiverRead Books.
BROTHERS HAVE MORE ADVENTURES ON THE WAY
Marcus Mohalland and Jan Lewis Zelesnikar are releasing more "Silly
Nomads" volumes. Volume 2, "Silly Nomads Go Ninja Crazy," is planned
for release in early 2014, and Volume 3, "Silly Nomads Make Great
Superheroes," is expected to be published in the spring.
Additional volumes are in the planning stages.
“We have a notebook full of ideas,” Jan declares. “Marcus has great stories!”
And that’s not all.
authors have “big dreams,” says Marcus, and hope one day to offer
interactive journals, board games, picture books, audio books, hats and
T-shirts. A comic, cartoon or movie isn’t out of the question, either.
They also expect to develop other books or series based on different
characters and themes. “The sky is the limit!” Marcus says.
now, though, the owners of Mohalland Lewis LLC want to focus on ways to
contribute to the community. “Even though we are a small company, we
want our focus and philosophy to be one of giving back,” says Jan.
dad instilled in us that education is important, so with Mohalland
Lewis we want to help underprivileged kids so they can go to college or
buy books for college,” Marcus explains. “Giving back in that way is
really important to us.”
CHARACTERS HAIL FROM PLACE MARCUS KNOWS WELL
Mohalland and Jan Lewis Zelesnikar didn’t have to look far for ideas
when writing "Silly Nomads From Palmerston Close"; Marcus simply
searched his own childhood memories.
He grew up in Palmerston
Close, a small neighborhood in the town of Portsmouth on the island of
Jamaica. He says he is grateful for growing up there. “It was a fun
place,” he says, “a safe haven in which to have adventures.”
childhood was the best,” he adds. “I wasn’t rich. My family was very,
very poor, but I was rich in the sense that I had my extended family.”
lived with his brother, sister and father, just as his character,
Suhcrom, does. In fact, the names of his main characters are taken from
the real names of his family members.
In 1990, 15-year-old
Marcus and his family moved to the United States to be reunited with his
mother. She had come to America years before to work until the rest of
the family could follow.
“There were opportunities in the United States to have a better life,” Marcus says. “We wanted a piece of the American dream.”
That dream brought the family to the Bronx, which Marcus says “was a bit of a culture shock.”
admits that Palmerston Close was friendlier and they felt more
connected in the smaller community. He was also surprised by what he
describes as the “disrespect” many American teens show toward their
elders. That kind of attitude isn't acceptable in Jamaica.
have to be polite and you have to treat people with respect,” he
explains. “You can’t just go off and do anything you like, because that
reflects badly on your family. When you’re out, you always keep that in
mind,” he adds.
College drew Marcus to the Southern Tier. He
attended Binghamton University, earning a bachelor’s degree in English
literature and rhetoric in 1998 and a master’s in social science in
2003. With good friends and an area he loves, Marcus chose to remain in
Binghamton following graduation.
In 2010, he joined UHS. He
enjoys helping people and one day hopes to play a significant role in
the medical field. Since he’s already achieved two of his biggest
dreams—coming to America and authoring a book—the odds are good that
he'll eventually realize that dream as well.
“I’m kind of a
dreamer,” he says, “but once I put my mind to something I’m going to do
it. I like to reach for the stars. I’m not afraid.”